Galveston Park Board demands thousands of dollars in fees for hosting annual sandcastle competition

Nick Natario Image
Friday, November 3, 2023
American Institute of Architects faces economic decision to continue yearly sandcastle competition in Galveston
Every summer, architects build massive sandcastles for the competition. But there are growing concerns now that the park board is charging thousands of dollars in fees for all beach events in Galveston.

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An annual sandcastle competition in Galveston may have crumbled after taking part on the island for nearly 40 years.

Each summer, a group of architects take over Galveston's beach and construct massive sandcastles. It's a tradition that doesn't appear will make it to its 38th year.

"That's the hardest decision our board has had to make since I've been here," American Institute of Architects Houston executive director Rusty Bienvenue explained.

Bienvenue said the Galveston Park Board told AIA Houston, which runs the event, that they have to pay $21,000 in fees to return next year. The price is something they said doesn't add up when you calculate how much the city makes in tourism.

"In the low years, about $600,000 that Galveston makes from it and in high years, it can be $1.2 or $1.6 million," Bienvenue said.

The park's board added the fee, charging all beach events.

According to the board, the annual sandcastle competition generates money, but the amount isn't the same as it once was. The number of teams has decreased and so have the number of visitors.

"The tax revenue is about $23,000 to $25,000 of actual tax benefit using the equation of how many people participate and come in," Vince Lorefice, Galveston Park Board's general manager of parks, said.

Because of the event's history, officials say they only asked for a fraction of the total fee, and plan to increase it over time. Officials said they want the competition on the island.

"If their organization wishes not to continue, we will absolutely open the discussion for others that want to continue that event or a similar event," Lorefice said.

Organizers said they're exploring too. Other cities have reached out, but no decisions have been made.

"If we can figure out how to bring it back, we will," Bienvenue said. "The ball is in the court of the park's board."

The event took place in August 2022. Now, the park's board said organizers asked to move it to this April, to which they agreed.

The question now is, will it take place in five months, or will nearly 40 years of history crumble?

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